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In this week’s edition, we applaud Big Bryson DeChambeau’s moonlighting abilities on the long-drive circuit, welcome a much-needed rookie class to the PGA Tour and consider a concept for U.S. captains that could change the way we think of the Ryder Cup.
Longball Bryson. Quietly in Tour circles, there was plenty of eye-rolling when DeChambeau signed on to participate in this week’s Professional Long Driver’s Association World Championship.
Some suggested, correctly, that Tour golf and the long drive circuit were two different sports, much like Major League Baseball and the home run derby. The skillsets for each were vastly different and DeChambeau was chasing a goal that could be detrimental to his Tour career.
Whether DeChambeau’s unabashed obsession with length is good for his long-term career is a question that won’t be answered for years, but his performance in Mesquite, Nevada, is proof he’s pretty good at both sports.
Big Bryson secured a spot in the Round of 16 in what felt like a statement performance on Thursday. DeChambeau’s pursuit of more and more speed may not always dovetail with his day job, but it is entertaining.
A rookie class. With a healthy nod to Will Zalatoris and everything he did last season to win the Tour’s Rookie of the Year Award, this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship is a wonderful reminder of what was missing last season.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertain schedule in 2020, the Tour halted any promotion or relegation for the 2020-21 season, which meant the only rookies last season were those who were able to play their way onto the circuit as non-members like Zalatoris.
This season, however, there is a full class of rookies (27 players) to liven things up, including the overnight leader in Mississippi, Sahith Theegala.
Of all the lessons doled out by the pandemic, this one now seems obvious: the Tour needs fresh faces.
Full-field scores from the Sanderson Farms Championship
Tweet of the week:
This is why I can’t stand when random people assume certain golfers don’t care and it’s all about money. Rory has all the money. Losing still hurts him. He has all the money cuz he cares a lot about winning
— max homa (@maxhoma23) September 26, 2021
Rory McIlroy’s post-round interview on Sunday at Whistling Straits is why the Ryder Cup is so compelling and why it means more to the players than most fans ever realize.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
End of an era(s). Sometimes it’s just time.
That seemed to be the only logical answer Thursday when news surfaced that Justin Thomas was splitting with his longtime caddie Jimmy Johnson and would start working full-time this fall with Jim “Bones” Mackay.
In a post on social media, Thomas confirmed this was a one-sided decision. “I 100 [percent] did not fire him as Jimmy came to me after the Ryder Cup and told me he has decided to pursue other opportunities,” Thomas wrote.
The move stunned many considering the duo’s on-course success. There was a similar reaction to news that Bubba Watson had split with his longtime caddie Ted Scott.
Whatever the reasons for either split remain unclear but there is a single truth that connects both – sometimes it’s just time.
A captain concept. In the victorious glow of the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s historic victory at Whistling Straits an idea was hatched that could change the way we think about the biennial matches.
By all accounts Steve Stricker was the perfect “players” captain, leaving nothing to chance, leading by example and, perhaps most importantly, running off all the distractions that make the Ryder Cup such a challenge for the U.S. side. To a man, the U.S. team voiced its unwavering support for Stricker to return as the American captain in ’23, but Stricker was having none of it.
“It's mapped out and there's guys in positions to be the next captains. It was an unbelievable experience, don't get me wrong; I'm glad it's over,” Stricker said.
Given how demanding the job can be Stricker’s reluctance is understandable, but imagine a captain like Stricker who was able to pull all the right strings and make all the right decisions coming back year after year.
It would be similar to the system used by USA Basketball which has featured Mike Krzyzewski on the sideline for 38 consecutive years. That’s probably not going to happen in golf, but what if Stricker was given a decade to lead the U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams? Just imagine the legacy a good captain could leave behind.
Gimmes. This if Friday foursome 101 stuff. Anyone who has ever played a “money” game against your buddies knows that there are no such things as “gimme” putts and yet the game’s absolute best and brightest were thrown for a loop at last week’s Ryder Cup because of some sort of perceived “gimme” slight.
Shane Lowry was the first player to speak publicly of gimme-gate, saying on Paddy Power Instagram Live’s chat that he didn’t give any putts at Whistling Straits because that’s what the Americans were doing.
“For a start Bryson Dechambeau’s putter shaft is about four feet long so it was definitely not a gimme. Justin Thomas did the same thing and then I did the same thing but purely because Justin Thomas did it,” Lowry said. “They made me hit a putt from literally 18 inches on the first so I did the exact same thing as Thomas did just because I was annoyed with the picture I’d seen of him that morning.”
Rome and the 2023 matches can’t get here soon enough.